Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Dateline New Jersey:

A temp worker for Wal•Mart was crushed to death this morning as he opened his store for Black Friday shoppers. According to a co-worker, when the doors were unlocked, the rush of people actually tore the door off it's hinges and it fell on top of the temp worker. In the mad dash for bargains, greedy shoppers simply trampled over the door, killing the worker in the process.

Of course, there may be no way to tell which individuals are responsible. One can only hope that the store video surveillance has clear shots of the morons at the front of the line and police will be able to track them down and bring appropriate murder charges against them.

A statement released by Wal*Mart today mentioned that they take the security and safety of their customers very seriously. That's wonderful, but I notice it mentions nothing about the safety and security of their employees. You learn something new every day, eh?

To the bargain hunters responsible for this senseless murder, I certainly hope the holiday savings were worth the price of a human life.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blurb Recognizes Genius!

Sorry folks, that's about as humble as I can get at the moment. Just two days after releasing the lower ninth ward: K+36 on Blurb, they contacted me for their Take 5 Tuesday interview on the Blurberati Blog! I'm positively dizzy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the lower ninth: K+36

Three years in the making, my first book is now available at Blurb

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border, forever changing the lives of thousands of people. One of the most devastated areas was New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, submerged beneath millions of gallons of water, in some places by as much as ten feet.

This collection of photographs by M Styborski documents three years of loss and recovery, destruction and rebuilding, and despair and hope in one of New Orleans’ oldest neighborhoods.

The video above highlights a small sample of the 135 photographs contained in the book. The music is the appropriately titled 'House Of Cards' by Final Academy, a band from New Orleans many years ago.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I can't believe you lazy, lazy people! The polls are open and you're sitting there reading this blog! Well, perhaps it's for the best as there are a few constitutional amendments for the State of Louisiana that you might need to know about before pulling those levers. So let's go!

CA1 (Act 935-SB232) Term limits for members of state boards and commissions
A vote FOR imposes turn limits.
A vote AGAINST continues to allow elected or appointed members of certain state boards and commissions to hold an unlimited number of terms.

The Nation recommends FOR

You know, most of these are college boards and who really gives a damn, but one of the offices is that of the state Public Service Commissioner. If any office needed term limits, I'd think this would be the one.

CA2 (Act 937-SB296), Sets a time limit for calling special sessions
A vote FOR requires that legislators issue a call for a special session at least seven days prior to the start of the session.
A vote AGAINST continues the requirement that legislators issue a call for a special session at least five days prior to the start of the session.

The Nation recommends AGAINST

While this amendment would clarify certain aspects of calling special sessions, it still leaves the issue of signature versus public notification very vague. For instance, language in the Constitution specifically says that the governor or presiding officers “shall issue” the call “five days prior to convening.” But if the proclamation is signed one day and publicized the next a governor could circumvent the advance notice requirement by keeping a signed proclamation secret until publication becomes convenient. Not really a major issue, but why fix a vague law with a slightly less vague law. Vote no and make them get it right next time.

CA3 (Act 931-HB183), Temporary successors for legislators ordered to active military duty
A vote FOR allows the Legislature to appoint a temporary successor for any legislator called away for active military duty if the duty prevents him/her from performing the requirements of the office.
A vote AGAINST continues to allow districts to be without representation if the legislator away called for active service refuses to resign.

The Nation recommends FOR

OK, this is a strange one because it affects only one person. It's authored by District 94's Nick Lorusso who is actually going to be called to active duty near the end of 2008. This amendment will basically ensure representation for D94 while Lorusso serves his country and it also ensures that when his service is up he can return to his seat in the House. I see no harm here and it's actually a good plan to have in place if this situation ever comes up in the future.

CA4 (Act 932-HB420), Louisiana severance taxes to parishes
A vote FOR dedicates additional state severance taxes to the parishes of origin. Use of taxes is restricted. Also dedicates a portion of severance taxes collected on state property to Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund.
A vote AGAINST would maintain the maximum amount of $850,000 in severance tax revenues that the state pays to parishes.

The Nation recommends FOR

Severance taxes are monies paid to Parishes to replace natural resources taken (severed) from the Parish. They are intended to pay for things like road and bridge upkeep from wear and tear of the vehicles used to remove the resources. Currently the State is required to return 20% of all severance taxes to the Parish of origin on all removed resources other than sulfur, ignite and timber, but there is a cap set at $850,000 adjusted annually for inflation. The 2009 cap is currently at $875,000. This bill would increase the cap to $1.85 million for 2009 and $2.85 million for 2010 then adjust for inflation each successive year. If the full 20% were paid out last year, Parishes would have recieved $178 million, but due to the caps the payout was only $32 million. That's a lot of money that could be put to good use in some of those Parishes. If passed, this will allocate an estimated additional $26 million to 30 Parishes in 2009 and $46 million in 2010. The remaining Parishes do not generate enough severance taxes to reach even the current cap.

CA5 (Act 933-HB461), transfer of special property tax assessment level
A vote FOR allows homeowners to transfer speical property tax assessment levels to new homes if the local, state or federal government sells or expropriates their property.
A vote AGAINST prohibits homeowners from transferring special property tax assessments to new properties.

The Nation recommends AGAINST

This amendment is intended to give tax breaks mainly to elderly and disabled property owners by transferring low assessments of property taken for government use and transferring it to replacement property which may be in higher tax brackets. Well meant, but then we are left with incredibly inaccurate property tax rolls. Proponents of this amendment say it will affect a minimum of citizens but if this is true, wouldn't a special tax freeze for those individuals be a better solution instead of skewing the rolls?

CA6 (Act 936-SB295), Removes certain restrictions on blighted property
A vote FOR would mean that public authorities would not have to first offer expropriated property back its prior owner before selling the property a third party if the property was taken or removed to eliminate public health or safety threats and was held for less than 30 years. It also eliminates a requirement that the property must be sold by public bid.
A vote AGAINST would maintain re-sale requirements for property taken to remove a threat to public health and safety.

The Nation recommends AGAINST

Now this one scares me. I'm all for the first part which eliminates the requirement to offer the property first to the original scumbags who let it fall into such bad repair that the State had to take it away from them, but the second part, elimination of public bids, scares the living crap out of me. This is a bad, bad idea folks. Without the public bid process, politicians and sharp developers can carve out whole neighborhoods for any purpose they please. And you'll never know about it until it's too late. Can you say gentrification? Can you say corruption?

CA7 (Act 934-HB584), Contributions to post-employment benefit funds
A vote FOR allows public funds for non-pension, post-employment benefits to be invested in stocks.
A vote AGAINST would prohibit public funds for non-pension, post-employment benefits from being investged in stocks.

The Nation recommends AGAINST

I think this is the absolute worst time to propose this. The last thing we need is for our money to go into a state employee benefit fund that relies on the stock market. You may as well just take the whole fund down to Harrah's and bet it on black.

If you're still here and you want some help with the other choices in front of you today, (and you live in my district,) here you go…

President: Screw the big two, Ron Paul is on the Louisiana ballot for the Louisiana Taxpayers Party. Show the Dem-Reps that you're sick of being porked by the two-party system and vote for Ron! His Veep is Barry Goldwater, Junior!

Senate: Landrieu? Kennedy? No. Not to speak ill of either candidate, but Landrieu is sort of a mouth-breathing dullard and Kennedy is a borderline nutjob, (IMHO,) so let's get Libby with it and pull the handle for Libertarian Richard Fontanesi.

First Congressional District Rep: Jim Harlan, Democrat. No real reason other than Steve Scalise is wasting your tax money on junkets to Alaska to hook-up with Sarah Palin and calling it an "energy summit." Bullcrap. He just wants to attach himself to a nice fat Republican teat. Considering the current climate, a vote for Scalise might just be a huge step backward.

Associate Justice, First Supreme Court District: Jimmy Kuhn, Republican. Let's face it, aside from the Landrieu/Kennedy catfight, this is possibly the ugliest race the state has seen in a long time. Unfortunately there are only two choices here and between Greg Guidry and Jim Kuhn, Kuhn looks to be the better judge.

Public Service Commissioner: Heavy Sigh… John Schwegmann, No Party. I'm sorry, I'm not happy about this, but Eric Skrmetta is too closely associated with outgoing PSC Jay Blossman, Jr. It's widely suspected that Blossman has been in the pockets of his charges and his support of Skrmetta just scares me away. Schwegmann has had the job before, and he knows the territory and that's about all I can say about that.

Lastly, there's the Jefferson Parish 1% sales tax switcheroo. It's been on the books since 1984 and they're trying to say this money will be used for construction and maintenance on sewage, road and drainage projects. Yeah, sure it will. 24 years and it hasn't helped yet. I'm against it oput of sheer spite, but it will probably pass anyway.

So there you have it kids, get out there and make your voice heard! You don't have to agree with me, but if you don't vote, you can't bitch. And bitching is really what elections are all about, isn't it?